Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—May 15, 2017

Sprint, SoftBank Said in Informal Deal Talks With T-Mobile
Sprint has started preliminary conversations to merge with T-Mobile US, the latest attempt to consolidate in a market watched closely by U.S. regulators, according to people familiar with the matter. Executives of both SoftBank Group, Sprint’s largest shareholder, and Sprint itself have had informal contact with T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom AG about a transaction, said the sources. Merger talks in the wireless industry had been on hold for almost a year because of a government spectrum auction that required participants to avoid negotiating deals with each other until April 27. SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son and Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Officer Tim Hoettges separately told investors this week they’d be open to discussions about consolidation. Story by Alex Sherman , Matthew Campbell , and Scott Moritz for Bloomberg.

Google Announces Project Treble To Allow OEMs To Deliver Faster Android Updates
Ahead of I/O 2017, Google is announcing Project Treble to tackle one of Android’s biggest issues. Starting with Android O, the OS is being re-engineered to make updates easier, faster, and less costly for manufacturers. Project Treble takes inspiration from the Compatibility Test Suite that allows developers to write apps that work across billions of phones and tablets without needing to make tweaks for each device type. With the new more modular architecture, Google is separating the vendor implementation – or device-specific, lower-level software written in large part by the silicon manufacturers – from the Android OS Framework. Story by Abner Li-May for 9 to 5 Google.

‘Facebook Rewards’ QR Codes Dangle Discounts For Offline Purchases
Facebook wants to prove it drives brick-and-mortar foot traffic with its latest feature test. TechCrunch has discovered a previously unreported Facebook feature where users can scan a personalized QR code to score discounts or bonuses when they buy something in-person at certain shops. Some users see the Rewards feature listed in the More tab of their Facebook mobile app. Facebook Rewards could benefit users, merchants and the social network. People could earn free discounts just for being Facebook users. Merchants could lure people to their stores, earning a higher margin than the Rewards they give while fostering repeat customers and word-of-mouth promotion. Facebook could become more appealing to users while earning ad revenue from businesses looking to promote their Rewards giveaways via ads. The feature could also give Facebook more data on who buys what where, which it can use to improve the relevance of ad targeting and News Feed content. Story by Josh Constine for Tech Crunch.

Smartphones That Charge In Five Minutes ‘Could Arrive Next Year’
Smartphones with batteries that fully charge in five minutes could be available to consumers next year. The technology was first shown off in 2015, when Israeli start-up StoreDot demonstrated its FlashBattery at the CES tech show in Las Vegas. Chief executive Doron Myersdorf told the BBC it is now expected to enter production in early 2018. Story by Chris Baraniuk for the BBC.

Smartphones May Help Discharge ER Patients Faster
A study by the University of Toronto has found the use of smartphones to relay lab results enables patients to be discharged faster from the emergency room than traditional methods. Researchers found chest pain patients in the ER whose attending physicians received lab results delivered to their smartphones were discharged about 26 minutes faster than patients waiting for lab results delivered to the electronic patient record on hospital computers. Physicians received troponin results through push alerts on their smartphones. Troponin are proteins found in the heart muscle and are measured in the blood to differentiate between unstable angina and a heart attack in people with chest pain. Elevated levels of troponin indicate a heat attack occurred. Story by Amy Wallace for UPI.

A New Tool To Further Deter Smartphone Theft
Consumers are increasingly buying used or refurbished phones. By one estimate, many new top-of-the-line smartphones on the market today will have at least three owners. Wireless carriers have worked hard to combat smartphone thefts, and no one wants to buy a stolen or lost phone that may be blocked on their wireless network. That’s why the US wireless industry is stepping up the fight on consumers’ behalf today by announcing the launch of a free public service website called the Stolen Phone Checker. This simple web-based tool empowers consumers, as well as police departments and businesses in the mobile device market such as retailers and resellers, to easily verify if a mobile device has been reported stolen or lost. Think of it as Carfax for phones. If the device has been reported as lost or stolen, the device status on the website will be red, noting that phone has been reported lost or stolen and wireless service on the device may be blocked. By helping consumers make an informed decision about the status of a device, particularly before purchasing one second-hand, the Stolen Phone Checker is aimed at removing an incentive for mobile device theft. Story by Meredith Attwell Baker for Ars Technica.

Kids Who Use Smartphones Start Talking Later
Growing evidence suggests that screen time may have some negative consequences for young children’s development. In a new study of nearly 900 children between six months and two years old, researchers found that those who spent more time using handheld devices were more likely to have delays in expressive speech, compared to children who didn’t use the devices as much. For every 30 minutes of screen time, there was a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay. The researchers say they did not find any effect of screen time on other communication skills, such as gesturing, body language or social interactions. But the effect on speech is worth investigating. Story by Alice Park for Time.

Identifying Mobile Shoppers A Top Priority For 70% Of Retailers
Mobile commerce is not only in the hands of mobile shoppers. Retailers increasingly are looking to personalize shopping experiences by tapping into mobile technology to help them identify their customers. Identifying the customer and delivering a personalized experience is one of the top priorities of 70% of retailers, according to a new study. The intent is to use mobile technology to identify the customer prior to checkout, sometimes even before they enter the store, to enable associates to assist and influence purchase decisions, according to the report. Story by Chuck Martin for Media Post.

iPhone 8 Predicted to Cost $999 For 128GB And $1,099 For 256GB, With No 32GB Model
Apple’s so-called “iPhone 8” with an OLED display and wireless charging is widely expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 in the United States, and Wall Street analysts continue to guess just how much it’ll sell for. The latest prediction comes from Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski, who today said she expects the rumored high-end iPhone to be available in 128GB and 256GB storage capacities for $999 and $1,099 respectively. Unlike the iPhone 7, she doesn’t believe the iPhone 8 will be available in 32GB. Apple’s most expensive smartphone to date is the iPhone 7 Plus with 256GB of storage, which retails for $969 in the United States. Story by Joe Rossignol for Mac Rumors.

This Minimalist Cellphone Is Designed To Be As Basic As Possible
A new, minimalist phone is designed for people want to eliminate all the clutter, but still remain reachable. The size of a credit card, The Light Phone is about as stripped down as one can get: it can receive and make calls, store up to nine numbers, and tell the time. That’s it. No texting, email, or anything else. This also isn’t a Bluetooth accessory that pairs to a smartphone: users open an account and install an app on their existing smartphone, which forwards calls to and from the device. It also means that users don’t need to worry about maintaining a second number. It will last for three days on standby mode, and runs a “stripped down version of Android.” It comes in black and white. Non-backers to the project can now preorder their own for $150. The phone is expected to ship at the end of May, but it’s only available in the US at the moment. Story by Andrew Liptak for The Verge.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of SaveOnPhone.com. He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.